Simplicity is Key to Being Heard and Understood

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CHICAGO — One of the biggest challenges associated with any position in the workforce is using sound, compliant communication, whether you’re speaking face-to-face, writing a report, delivering a presentation, or even writing a simple e-mail.
Everything starts with the ability of the one you’re communicating with to understand and comprehend. Many managers, no matter how experienced they are (time on the job doesn’t equal knowledge, by the way), have a difficult time grasping fundamental concepts, especially those not well versed in day-to-day operations. It’s the concept of seeing the forest for the trees.
The way these listeners usually see issues — and rightfully so in most cases — is served up with good data and analysis. Demonstrating how one obtained the data and how good the data really is takes sound, concise communication.
Subject-matter experts typically write or communicate with other experts in their particular jargon and often-turgid prose. Unfortunately, that doesn’t deter some managers from delivering incorrect information at upper levels of management. Many managers like to pretend they know everything, and the biggest mistake they can make is to not buddy up with the subject-matter expert. Good managers always stand side-by-side with the experts.
More importantly, content providers — experts, if you will — need to know who they’re communicating with. In particular, they must learn to understand what the listeners or readers desire, on a specific, case-by-case basis.
That sounds difficult, I know, but the main recommendation here is to stick to the basics, then elaborate on technical complexities as they come up. Don’t jump headfirst into an issue unless the audience drives that concern; that’s what you get paid for.
To you experts who like to talk, don’t be afraid to say you don't know when asked a question you can’t fully answer. Expert here doesn’t mean expert on every issue.
Using simple language is at the heart of the audience-oriented approach. Good listeners should emphasize simple and direct communication, no matter if it’s verbal or written. Managers should require basic, concise information over flowery text. Say what you have to say, clearly, concisely, and move on. No one cares to hear the history of nothing…unless they ask, of course.
Managers who communicate regularly should rely more on tasks and less on content. The listener will comprehend best if your message is packaged in such a way that any novice can understand. While this may generate what the expert thinks are “stupid” questions, these questions naturally will become a learning tool for management.
Always create an opportunity for open discussion. The common theory is that top management knows best how to communicate. Just because your boss gives you something he feels should be published doesn’t mean it represents the best way to communicate.
Designing communication sites is the best example that comes to mind. Web managers should always live by the goal of publishing clear, compelling content that will be understood by all readers. They should never be afraid to edit anything they’re given.
No matter how and when you communicate, keep it short, always know your audience (all are different), and strive to strike a balance between accuracy and clarity.


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